What is Blockchain, Really?
Imagine a notebook that records every sale or contract your business makes. Now, imagine that instead of being stored in a safe in your office, copies of this notebook are stored in multiple places—on your computer, your accountant’s computer, and maybe even on your supplier’s computer. If someone tries to cheat or alter the records, they’d have to do it on all those computers simultaneously, which is almost impossible. That's how blockchain works: it's like a super-secure notebook that’s virtually tamper-proof.
Why Should Small Business Owners Care?
Trust: With a blockchain, everyone knows that the information is accurate, which helps build trust between you, your customers, and your suppliers.
Safety: It’s very hard for hackers to mess with the data.
Speed: Some tasks can be automated, which saves you time and money.
How Can Small Businesses Use Blockchain?
Track Your Stuff: If you sell products, you can use blockchain to track them every step of the way—from when and where they're made to when they're delivered to the customer.
Payments: If you have international customers or suppliers, you could use cryptocurrency for payments, which could be quicker and cheaper than bank transfers.
Automate Paperwork: Think of "smart contracts" as automatic agreements. For example, when a customer pays for a product, a smart contract could automatically send them a receipt and take the product out of your inventory.
Challenges to Consider
It’s Still New: Like anything new, it takes time to understand how to use it best.
Rules and Regulations: The laws about using blockchain are still being worked out.
Costs: There might be some initial setup costs.
Note that most applications that you'll come across will be through using products, services, and technologies that use blockchain's underlying technology- it's not like you have to start "using" this technology in your own business right away.
How to Get Started
You don’t have to dive in head-first. You can start small. There are companies and online platforms that offer "blockchain as a service" to help you test the waters without any heavy investment. For example, you might opt into using a new payment processing service that utilizes underlying blockchain technology to pass along cost savings to you. Or, you may end up using a new inventory management or shipping service that improves efficiency using this technology.
With any new technology, there's going to be a learning curve. Even though there are some crazy conversations happening about blockchain, it isn’t just for tech wizards and cryptocurrency enthusiasts. It has real, practical applications that could benefit your small business by making things more trustworthy, secure, and efficient.